Games and public policy

There’s a good piece on BBC News Online about serious games, including a bit about the apparently successful Cyber Budget in France:

“Fed up of people continually complaining about their taxes, France’s ministry of finance developed a video game, so now the people themselves can have a go at doing the minister’s job of balancing the country’s budget.”

A few years back I played a game the EU developed to illustrate how fishing stocks behave as a complex system. I know quite a lot about complexity — and I guess thought I knew the issues — but the game brought home to me in a dramatic way the disastrous effect that small changes in population of one species can have overall and how difficult it is to get fishermen to change their behaviour.

I don’t know of any UK Government departments working on games at the moment but I think they should. Maybe it’s something David Miliband could do as a way of developing the idea of personal carbon credits he proposed a couple of weeks ago. We could set up an online game where the emissions due to your behaviour can be measured and traded. Maybe we could develop a Kyoto Expansion Pack for the Sims Online or a carbon trading scheme for Second Life. We might even learn something about how people react to the system.

I’m also fascinated by ARGs like I Love Bees (created by 4orty2two entertainment) at the moment. I’d love to do one in London next year. It would have to be completely engrossing, great fun and teach players something about the city and themselves all at the same time.

Maybe it’s something we could do with Pick Me Up

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